Sèvres vases any dealer would give a hundred pounds for, and ask for them two hundred and fifty, and take two hundred.’
‘No doubt the vases are precious. They were given to the late Duke by King Charles X. from the royal manufactory.’
‘That nude figure of a woman seated on a dolphin is fine,’ said Joanna. ‘Oh, please may I look at the mark? Double C crowned—Ludwigsburg, modelled by Ringler. Look at the glaze. Observe the moulding!’
‘It is scarcely delicate,’ said Mrs. Probus.
‘On the contrary, it is most delicate, and considering the delicacy in admirable condition. Only some of the flowers on the pedestal are chipped.’
‘I did not allude to the fragility of the china, but to the impropriety of a lady going about with only a scarf over her. However, the subject must be right, or it would not be here.’
‘Of course it is right,’ said Joanna, excitedly. ‘It is splendid; worth thirty pounds to a dealer, double to a purchaser. That is a pretty First Empire clock.’
‘It don’t go,’ said Mrs. Probus.
‘Who cares for that?’ answered Joanna. ‘The shape is the thing. The ornaments are very chaste. There you have some old Plymouth.’
‘You seem to know a great deal about porcelain.’
‘I do know something.’
‘Ah, you ought to see the collection the Marquess has in his room. He is a fancier, and does not care what he pays to secure a piece to his taste.’ The housekeeper was gratified at the enthusiasm and delight of the girl.
‘May I—oh, may I see it?’
‘Let me see—the Marquess has gone out. I think it would be possible, though not allowed. We may not show strangers over the private apartments inhabited by the family. Still, this is a different case; you are a servant, almost I may say, of the family, as you are in the house of the steward. Follow me through the dining-room. I must show you the Rubens and Ostades and Van Dycks, and the Murillo bought by the late Duke Frederick Augustus; he gave for it seven thousand pounds.’
Joanna sighed. ‘I am ashamed to say I know nothing of the value of pictures. That requires a special education, which I have not had. It is a branch of the business—’ She stopped abruptly, and then said, ‘I dare say you have a catalogue of the paintings, which you could let me have. I should so much